Allen Jackson - The Effort of Awakening - Part 2
Hey, it's an honor to be with you today. We're walking through this study on how to thrive in the midst of big trouble, and particularly, we're trying to understand "The Effort of Awakening". You know, I'm old enough, I remember growing up with Billy Graham on the television set, black and white, talking to stadiums filled with people, saying, "If you'll respond to my invitation, the people that you came with will wait till you're done".
I thought that was normal. I thought that was typical. That's not normal in American life, and certainly not in American broadcasting anymore. But the effort that is involved with seeing a nation or a group of people turn their hearts to the Lord, is not small. It's not inexpensive, it's not without struggle. There'll be confrontation, there'll be opposition. That's not my opinion; that's biblical. The question on the table with you and me is do we have the courage to be a generation that will welcome an awakening? Or will we hide in the shadows like cowards? I don't think the answer to that has been expressed yet. I wanna invite you to stand up for the truth. Enjoy the lesson.
We'll step back into history a little farther. Long before there's a monarchy, God is the King of Israel. The book of Judges is a theocracy. There's no central government, there's no central king, there's no palace, there's no capital city. There's no administrative complex. When there's a threat to the tribes of Israel, God himself will raise up a leader. Now here's the bewildering part of the book of Judges in that period in history. Repeatedly, the tribes would wander away from honoring God into idolatry and compromise and immorality, and they suffer the consequences of that, and God raises up a leader to bring them back.
See, what we're watching is not unique to human history. We're not the first civilization to have wandered. We're not the first expression of God's people who have forfeited holiness for comfort or convenience or ease. I mean, it's easy to go, say, "It's the end of the world! I'm ready". I think it's more important to say, "God, I'm sorry. Forgive me". Gideon is in the book of Judges. He's one of the judges. God recruits him as a leader. He needs somebody that has the courage to say to the people, "We have to choose a new direction". And God, in his wisdom, chooses Gideon. It's not very apparent from the context why. I put it in your notes. It says: "The angel of the LORD came and sat down under an oak and watched 'Oprah' with him". Kind of. "And when the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.' And Gideon replied, 'Sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?'"
Gideon talked back. "If the LORD is still with us, why are we in this fine mess, Ollie"? "'Where are all the wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, "Didn't the LORD bring us out of Egypt"? But now the LORD has abandoned us and has put us into the hand of Midian.'" You hear Gideon's heart; he said, "God has abandoned us. We have no help from God". "And the LORD turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. I'm sending you.'" Now, Gideon wasn't volunteering. He's not standing there, going, "Oh, me, me, please, me. We need a deliverer. I'm here. I'm up. Let's go, c'mon". Gideon said, "No, I feel abandoned". And God said, "I'm sending you".
I wonder how many of us would be willing to imagine that God was saying to us, "I'm sending you. I'm sending you to work on Monday to be a light for me. I'm sending you to the golf course next week to be a light for me. I'm sending you to the ball field to sit in the bleachers while your kids play to be an advocate for me. I'm sending you into that neighborhood, not so you can walk around the block at night as a voyeur and look through the windows and try to see who's redecorating. But I put you in that neighborhood so you'd begin to pray for those people. I put your children in that school so that you could begin to be an influence and use your voice. I've given the opportunity to vote so you would use it, more than you would complain". I wonder if we would be willing to say to the Lord, "Okay, send me".
See, I know most of us imagine there's some change needed and something should be done about something. There's some part of what's happening that we're not comfortable with, but we want somebody else to get busy with it. We wanna vote for somebody while we continue on our routine and stacking up whatever it is we're trying to collect. And let them deal with the hardship, right? I mean, I came to church. What are you asking from me? "God said to Gideon, 'I'm sending you.' And Gideon said, 'But Lord, how can I save Israel?'" I'm with him at this point. "'My clan is the weakest in Manasseh.'" I'm in the weakest clan in my tribe. "'And I'm the least in my family.'" I'm the runt of the litter. And my clan is unimpressive and my tribe is overlooked. "And the LORD said, 'I'll be with you,'" oh. "'I'll be with you. You'll strike down the Midianites together.' That same night the LORD said to him, 'Take the second bull from your father's herd, the one who's seven years old.'"
I'm intrigued by that. I grew up around animals. "I want you to take the second bull in there, that seven-year-old bull". God knew specifically what animal he wanted Gideon to offer as a sacrifice. Is it possible we've been a little sloppy with the Lord? Have we been just a little casual? Do you imagine that God has anything near that kind of specificity and imagination for our lives? "'Take that second bull, the seven-year-old one. I want you to offer him. Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole.'" The same problem that Josiah is gonna face hundreds of years later is a problem in the days of Gideon. They're still worshiping the Canaanite fertility gods. Remember the instruction when they occupied the land? "Get rid of them". They're having trouble with that.
In Gideon's case, you gotta start at home. "Go get your father's altars". Yes, I've recruited somebody whose father is an idolater. "Then build a proper kind of an altar to the LORD your God on top of the height. Use the wood from the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering". Use your father's idol as the wood to offer an appropriate sacrifice. "So Gideon took ten of his servants as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime". Right there in the book. I mean, he has a personal encounter with the Lord. An angel of the Lord comes, "I have an assignment for you. I got something I want you to do for me". "Sir, yes, sir. But I'm so afraid, I'm gonna do it at night".
Do you believe you can have a visit from the Lord that you knew God gave you an assignment and your response could still be going, "Phew, I don't know about that". See, I think we've listened so long to this baloney, it's a Greek word. It means I don't agree. "Doing the Lord you always feel empowered and bold and confident and full of faith". No, most of the things I've done for the Lord, I've done with my knees banging together. I wish it were easier. I wish there was more applause. I wish the outcome was so crystal clear that I didn't have any anxiety, but the truth is, most of those places where I've really taken a step forward with the Lord, it's taken every bit of courage I had. And I'm thinking, "Lord, I really hope you're paying attention here".
Gideon's so afraid he does it at night. But he did it. He did the right thing. So you'd expect if you had a visit from the angel of the Lord and you did what the Lord asked, that the next day there'd be a parade, triumph. Gideon's got a billboard. Yay, Gideon! Had to start at home. Do you think you could have to start at home? Ah, that's why we like short-term mission trips. I'm Billy Bad-for-Jesus three continents away. Now in my backyard, that's awkward. "In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal's altar, demolished, and the Asherah pole beside it was cut down and the bull had sacrificed on the new, and they asked 'Who did this?' They carefully investigated". They started searching. "And they were told, 'Gideon the son of Joash did it.'"
You know what's missing? Gideon's not standing there. He's not sitting there with a Coke Zero in the recliner next to the altar. "This was me". No, he did it at night. Now they're trying to figure out who did it. There's no volunteering coming forth. "The men of the town demanded of his father, 'Bring out your son. He must die, he has broken down Baal's altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.' But his father", now, his father's an idolater. It's his idol that stoked the fire. "His father replied to the hostile crowd around him, 'Are you going to plead the case of another god? Are you trying to save him,'" the god. "'Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal is really a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.'"
The father, to his credit, stands up for his son. So they changed Gideon's name. They called him the one who contends with Baal, fully expecting to watch him get the pox, the itch, and the scab. But Gideon leads the people in one of the greatest victories of Israelite history. They still study it, they still talk about it. Are you getting an idea yet that awakening, renewal, transformation, is not a passive thing? That it might take some courage from us, the people of God, that there might be some opposition, there could be some disruption, there could be some unhappy voices? It doesn't mean we retreat from the field. It doesn't mean that our message is always, "Well, just let me give you a hug, it's gonna be okay".
Again, we don't have to be angry or belligerent or condemning. We certainly don't wanna be violent. But we're gonna have to have the courage to stand up, folks. We need a different outcome. Our children and our grandchildren need an outcome. Are we gonna have that courage? A generation or two in front of us waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy. Surely we could set down our Slurpees and lift our hands and worship the Lord? What has happened to us?
In Acts chapter 5, that would be the New Testament. It's the unfolding story of the people of God after Jesus's Ascension, after his return to heaven. And the Jesus story is gaining a little traction, starting to influence people and influence how people think and how they behave and what they're doing with their time and their resources. And in chapter 5, in verse 17, it says: "The high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees," the Sadducees were the power brokers, the wealthiest people in the city. They're the cultural elites. "They are filled with jealousy".
That's in the book. "So they arrested the apostles and they put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. The angel said, 'Go back to the temple courts and finish your sermon.'" That's the living Bible. It is what it says. "And at daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin, the full assembly of the elders of Israel," they got all the power brokers together. "And they sent to the jail," and they're not there. So in the scramble, they say, "They're back at the temple. Bring 'em here". Verse 27: "Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin".
Now you will remember with me, the Sanhedrin is the group that orchestrated Jesus's execution. It was a Roman order, but it was initiated by the Sanhedrin. And that's not lost on the apostles. These people took out the boss. "'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'" We have imagined we're the first generation to ever be told not to talk about Jesus. So we withdrew from the field. We've had this historical arrogance: Well, nobody's ever told, this is the first time. We're not being tolerant. We're not being open-minded. We're not being inclusive enough. Someone was offended when I mentioned the name of Jesus, so I just quit talking about him. You understand how absurd it is on its face. It's just been more comfortable not to think about it. Suppose I took off my wedding ring. I mean, I'm still married, but why offend all the women?
See, you know it's absurd. But when it's come to our faith, we've accepted that line of thought and reasoning as if, "Well, that makes perfect sense," because it's easier in the shadows. "Don't you mention that name in this city again. We'll do to you what we did to him". They watched him tortured to death. "Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead, whom you had killed,'" c'mon, Peter. Can you see James and John? They went... "How about building a bridge? We're all Jewish here. We believe in sacrifices. We believe in Passover. We keep kosher". No, no, not Pete. "You killed him"!
You can see the guys' eye rolls, "Oh, Jeez, he's doing it again. Out of the boat, he almost drowned in the lake that night. Now he's gonna drown all of us". "'God exalted him to his own right hand and as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, whom God has given to those who obey him.' When they heard this, they were furious and they wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee stood up". One of them stood up. Said, "Wait a minute, if they're blaspheming God, God will deal with them". God raised a voice. "His speech," verse 40 says, "his speech persuaded them". If you stopped reading there, you thought, "Oh, no harm, no foul". Says: "They called the apostles in and had them flogged". Fancy English word. They were beaten. Their backs laid open, lacerated. They're gonna bear scars for the rest of their lives for that little stunt they pulled in the Temple Mount in response to an angelic direction.
Do you believe an angel could give you direction that would result in physical suffering? See, I think we've had the imagination that if we had an angelic visit, it would be to deliver us. I was about to walk down that path and the angel said, "Don't walk down that path". "Ooh, I'm so thankful. If I'd have walked down that path, it'd have been hard". I don't ever remember somebody giving a testimony, "An angel visited me, told me to walk down that path and I walked down that path and they beat me almost to death. Hallelujah, I'm looking for an angel". Do you understand how much we have morphed our faith that the whole objective is comfort and convenience and ease and abundance and plenty? We've lost sight of any sense of mission or objective or standing. But we're not the first generation.
"The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name". Not suffering physical pain. They're disgraced now. They're being treated like thieves and murderers and insurrectionists. They're being hated, they're now anti-establishment, they're not gonna be welcomed in those halls of power any longer. They've been deplatformed, they've been canceled. And they're leaving rejoicing that they could be ostracized for the name of Jesus. My time's gone. So what's our response to all of that? What do we do with that? Well, Hebrews 12, I believe, gives us the introduction. I'll give you the introduction and then we're gonna continue this in the next session.
What do we do? Can we agree that our generation is in need of some sort of an awakening, transformation, realignment? That if we continue on the path we're on, with the momentum we have, it's not gonna lead our kids and our grandkids to a better place? More confusion about their biology won't be helpful to them; more language shifts, more redefining of family, more redefining of marriage, more sexual immorality, those things probably wouldn't be great for our kids and grandkids. More reckless economic activity, greater greed and covetousness and envy probably wouldn't be great. Are we reading it right? Less truth? So what do we do? Hebrews chapter 12. Remember, Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame, it's the listing of the most remarkable men and women in the story, from Genesis right through the New Testament. "Let us," we're in the South. "Let's y'all". "Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".
Now, I'm not suggesting that we have to be martyrs, but Jesus is held out to us here as a pattern, as a type. We're told to fix our attention, our eyes, on Jesus. Consider what happened to him, what he was willing to endure, the physical suffering, the shame, the scandal that was attached to it. He was willing to be identified as a rebel, as a threat to the public good. Understand that. He was crucified because he was perceived, that the label that was hung upon him, that opened his life to the horrific physical suffering, was he was a general threat to the public good and there was no one to stand on his behalf. See, I prefer to be perceived as a value to the public good. Don't you? I'm not talking about going to church or being religious or wearing the label of WOC or some denomination.
Think about Jesus. Consider him, and then consider what he's asking you to do. And start to try to reconcile those things. Are we willing to be Jesus people? I mean, are we really? When we get out of the church building and we get off the church campus, are we willing to be Jesus people? Are we willing for our friends to know, "Now, I'm gonna change my vocabulary or I'm gonna change my beverage list or I'm gonna change my behaviors. No, I'm not watching that, or I wanna be Jesus people. No, I don't really think that is a good thing to do. I'm Jesus people". Well, who do you think you are? "I know, look, I'm as broken as you are, but I'm for Jesus". I'm not saying you have to agree with me. I'm just telling you this is what I believe and this is where I'm gonna stand now. See, I'm weary with there being more courage and more boldness for ungodliness until I've seen courage and boldness for godliness.
Church, it's time. There's some more I wanna add to that but, for now, we've got enough. I brought you a prayer. Why don't you stand with me? I believe God's gonna raise up some Gideons and some Deborahs and some Marys, and they'll say, "Yeah, yeah, I was possessed by some demons, but I met Jesus". C'mon, I know what it is to be tormented and I found out what it is to be free. Would you like to be free? You can be free too. He made me free; he'll help you be free. There's gonna be some of us like that blind man in John 9, you know, "I don't know everything about him, I haven't even seen him yet, but I'm for him". There's a lot about Jesus I don't know but I intend to be on the team. Have you found your prayer? Let's read this together:
Almighty God, I offer myself as a living sacrifice, yielding my will to you. Forgive me for ignoring your invitations and stubbornly pursuing my own agenda. I choose to follow Jesus as Lord of my entire life. Holy Spirit, help me to understand the splendor of His kingdom and the grandeur of the invitation I have been given. Grant me an understanding heart and a revelation of Jesus. May His kingdom be more real to me than any opportunity of this present world, in Jesus's name, amen.